Growing up in Maui, Lukas Nelson turned to music as a means of connecting with his father, outlaw country icon Willie Nelson.
“Music was a way for me to spend more time with him,” he tells Chris Shiflett during today’s episode of Walking the Floor. “I thought if I got really good, I could join him on the road, which I did.”
In recent years, the younger Nelson has been backing up more than one legend. He recorded The Monsanto Years with Neil Young in 2015, later serving as Young’s touring guitarist for more than a year. Meanwhile, Nelson ahs been touring the country with his own band, too, skewing closer to the world of the guitar-fueled rock & roll as the frontman of Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real. Talking with Shiflett, Lukas Nelson covers the full range of a career that began at age 11, when his father recorded one of his songs.
We’ve premiered Nelson’s Walking the Floor interview below, following a round-up of key points from the hour-long episode.
Keeping his family’s hippie-friendly spirit intact, Nelson is an enthusiastic surfer.
“None of that would fly in Hawaii, the way those guys act,” he says of the aggressive surfing culture in Los Angeles, where he currently lives. Things were different back home in Maui, where Nelson first learned to ride the waves. He credits Hawaii’s friendly vibe of Hawaii with creating a surfing community that prizes cooperation over competition. “It’s really hard to be upset in Maui,” he adds.
Growing up in the Nelson household, his adolescence was tamer than one might expect.
As a teenager, Nelson practiced guitar for roughly eight hours a day, leaving little time for any sort of hedonistic lifestyle. “I didn’t have a life in high school,” he explains. “I didn’t try and go to parties. I never even drank until college. I didn’t have a girlfriend until I was 17. I was really a late bloomer. I was isolated. My parents were protective of me.”
Nelson’s mother, Annie D’Angelo, deserves credit for introducing her son to rock music.
“I grew up listening to my dad and old country music,” Nelson remembers. It was his mom, however, who got him hooked on the comparatively harder sounds of Neil Young, the Beatles, the Rolling Stones and Jimi Hendrix. These days, Nelson’s music owes much of its sound to her influence. “My mom showed me rock & roll in its entirety,” he says proudly.
He couldn’t care less about trends.
“Now this is going to sound very hipster of me,” Nelson admits, “but I don’t care what’s happening in the musical climate at [this] time. A lot of bands will be like, ‘Alright, this is happening right now, so we’re gonna go that way.'” Dedicated to ignoring modern trends and delivering genuine, classic music, Nelson even named his band Promise of the Real. The moniker also nods to a Neil Young lyric, which brings us to our final Walking the Floor highlight.
Still in his twenties, Lukas Nelson has become a genuine friend, collaborator and bandmate of his longtime idol, Neil Young.
“I was playing Farm Aid with my band, and we covered this one song of Neil’s, “L.A.,” off of Time Fades Away, which is a super-obscure Neil album,” remembers Nelson. “We covered that song four or five years ago, and Neil came up to me and said, ‘Hey man, that’s great.'” That casual conversation kicked off a longstanding friendship that has since grown into an onstage collaboration, with Nelson and his bandmates joining Young in the studio for his thirty-sixth album, The Monsanto Years. When Young released the record in 2015, he hired Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real as his backup band. “We all came from the same cosmic soul cluster,” Nelson says proudly, adding, “The last two years of playing with Neil has just been a constant elation.”